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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Irish welcome Wood, Spond back

By Matt Fortuna

The former starting quarterback's return from suspension culminated with a game-winning drive. The former starting running back's return from suspension will likely come much earlier than the fourth quarter this Saturday, though his impact remains to be seen.

A multi-dimensional Notre Dame rushing attack is hoping that Cierre Wood can help complete a crowded backfield, one week after it managed to gain just 52 rushing yards against Purdue.

"No, I don't think Cierre makes the difference in the running game," coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. "He definitely gives us more weapons on offense that we can utilize, and we are going to have to do a great job as a staff of utilizing him. It gives us great depth, but I wouldn't say: 'Well, Cierre is back, you're going to run the ball well this week.' I think it just gives us more versatility and more weapons on offense that we can utilize for those big chunk plays."

The Irish rushed for 293 yards in a Week 1 rout of Navy, with Theo Riddick (107 yards) and George Atkinson III (99 yards) leading the way.

Riddick, whom Kelly said is the No. 1 running back, received 15 carries Saturday, 14 more than any non-quarterback on the roster, which was a byproduct of the senior's slot-receiving skills against a tough Boilermaker rush defense.

A returning 1,000-yard back, Wood is listed this week as the co-No. 2 man with Atkinson.

"Versatility. I mean, great versatility," Kelly said of what Wood adds to the backfield. "As I mentioned before, I think I had even said this on my conference call, was that we have to get George some more touches, as well, because we think we have got really three backs that have equal starting ability. They all can be stars and starters. We have to make sure that we integrate them all into the offense. I think the answer to your question is, it gives us great versatility."

Kelly also said that linebacker Danny Spond, who has a history of head injuries and had been closely monitored since leaving an early preseason practice, is cleared to practice and should even-out the linebacking corp.

Carlo Calabrese returned from suspension Saturday and started as his regular will linebacker spot, with usual starter Dan Fox moving to the dog as Ben Councell watched the position operate from the sideline a week after facing an unconventional offense in Navy's.

"We can go back to our original plan of Councell and Spond at the drop position," Kelly said of Spond's return. "And that would be the hope moving forward, that we are able to stabilize that dropped position with Danny."